Oct 312013

In my previous post, I discussed how creative prompts, which can take the form of challenges or exercises, light the creative fuse. It seems appropriate to follow up that post with the results of this month’s Blogging Business Artisans challenge, Prelude to the Holidays. LeAnn of Pasqueflower Ponderings challenged fellow team members to come up with a holiday-themed project:

October! It is time to start thinking ahead to the holidays—Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year. They will be here before we know it! This month, I challenge you to create a holiday-themed item. It could be a new listing for your Etsy shop, a holiday decoration for your home, a costume or special accessory for a holiday gathering, or a gift you intend to give to a friend or loved one. Since ‘prelude’ is a musical term, you could also make something music-themed if you wish.

The timing was excellent for LeAnn’s challenge. After the holidays last year, I thought about developing a “12 Days of Christmas Recipe Exchange Book,” but hadn’t fully fleshed out my ideas. Well, there’s nothing like a challenge to help an idea come to life!

My initial thought was that I would design 4-inch by 6-inch recipe cards for the book, using minimal embellishments so that there would be ample space for the recipe itself. I pictured cards with a narrow stripe of holiday-themed paper along the top of the cards. I planned to insert the cards in Teresa Collins Pre-Punched Page Protectors like the ones shown below. However, to my dismay I discovered that when you remove the pages from the package, you have to peel them apart and that is when the risk is greatest of tearing the pre-punched holes. Never mind that the package warns you, “Pull apart gently.” I did, but I still ripped a page.


I began re-thinking where the stripe on my cards should be, and then it occurred to me that I could include a top-and-bottom stripe if I reinforced the pre-punched holes. I folded a one-inch-wide strip of paper lengthwise, adhered Scor-Tape to it, and covered the pre-punched edge of each page protector. Then I added a second strip to the bottom of each page, purely for decorative purposes. This was the result.


The covers of the book came next. I embellish most of the books I make with a flower, but because this book will likely get a lot of handling, I decided to adhere a fairly flat flower. I used a Poppy Stamps Blooming Poinsettia steel craft die set to cut out the petals, leaves and stamens. Because the die pieces are very small and have a tendency to move as they go through the Big Shot, I used the new Sizzix Magnetic Platform to keep them in place. I love this gadget!


Before I adhered the flower to the book, I outlined the edges of the petals and leaves in gold with an Elmer’s Metallic Painters marker, and emphasized the veining in the petals with  an At You Spica pen, and the veining in the leaves with a VersaMarker watermark pen.

Recipe Book Collage

This book is ready to be listed in MisterPenQuin. I suspect others will follow!

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Aug 302013

I almost ran out of days this month to finish the August challenge organized by fellow Blogging Business Artisans teammate Linda of lindab142. “Fall is coming,” said Linda. “Create an item for autumn or blog about what you like about fall/autumn.”

Fall happens to be my favorite season. I love how the heat of summer shifts into cooler temperatures, how the air turns crisp, and the leaves change colors and drift to the earth. Both indoors and outdoors, you’ll see rich colors such as harvest gold, burnt orange, olive green and every shade of brown. Traditional tastes and smells include pumpkin and apple, cinnamon, cloves and hot cocoa. I’m sure I’ve left out a few, but needless to say, this is a season that for me is too short. It can’t arrive soon enough, either, as the hot, humid weather of August weighs down on everyone. Late this afternoon the thermometer read 103 degrees, most definitely not picnic weather . . . unless, perhaps, if you’re a lizard.

Because I enjoy fall so much, you’ll always see products reflecting the colors of autumn in both of my shops, JN Originals and Mister PenQuin. I am currently adding some new handmade books to the latter shop that have “fall” written all over them. Today I finished the lined journal below, which I’m going to have a hard time not keeping for myself.

August Challenge

I’d love to hear how you feel about fall. Is it your favorite season, too? To see how other Blogging Business Artisans members handled the August challenge, visit August Fall Is Coming Link Party.

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jun 272013

In yesterday’s post, I described the roll-up organizer I sewed in response to Blogging Business Artisan’s June challenge. That organizer was actually supposed to be a pencil roll-up, but I cut the fabric incorrectly, and ended up with too small of a roll. Still, I had leftover fabric, so I decided to try again because I still needed an organizer for my watercolor pencils.

Well, I have a funny story to tell. If you sew or work with wood, you’re told that before you cut anything, you should measure carefully. “Measure twice and cut once” is the frequently quoted adage. I did all of that, re-calculating exactly how tall and how wide my pencil organizer needed to be. And then I blithely cut my fabric, congratulating myself for figuring out a solution to the previous organizer’s problems.


My congratulations, however, were premature. Though I had measured more than twice before cutting my fabric, I failed to read my own notes correctly. Oops! I was left with fabric of the right height, but the wrong width—and not enough leftover fabric to re-do the project a third time. The width of my fabric was important because it affected the width of each pocket in the roll-up organizer. What I wanted was pockets that measured three-quarters of an inch wide; what I settled for was pockets that were a scant three-quarters of an inch instead. “Scant,” in sewing terms, means just short of a particular measurement, in my case 1/16th of an inch less that what was called for. There is no way I could draw the lines with pencil accurately on my project, so I came up with a make-do solution that I think I will use in the future because it worked so well.

What I did was to cut a strip of paper with my paper cutter that measured 11/16th of an inch, or 1/16th of an inch less than three-quarters of an inch. I placed it on my fabric and stitched alongside it, then picked it up and set it down next to the just-stitched line. And then I repeated the process over and over until all of my pockets were completed. This produced extremely precise results, and ended up being a time-saver because I didn’t have to take the time to mark my fabric. When I need parallel lines of stitching in the future that don’t follow standard measurements, I believe I will use this method again. As you can see from the strip of paper shown below, it lasted long enough for me to stitch 12 pockets.


The final roll-up organizer looks just like the previous one, but it accommodates my watercolor pencils nicely. I’m not sure if I will include rick rack trim in the future, though; it is a little fussy to sew and adds bulk to the seam line, even if you grade your seam (trim the seam allowance layers in different lengths).

Pencil rollup collage

Next on the agenda is a crochet hook organizer for John, who put in a special request.

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.